(from Santa Anita)
Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) winner Pioneerof the Nile had his final workout at Santa Anita on a blustery but sun-drenched morning April 15, busting four furlongs on the Pro-Ride racing surface in a bullet :46 1/5, the fastest of 39 drills at the distance.
The son of Empire Maker departs for Churchill Downs on April 16 to prepare for the 135th Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) on May 2.
Pioneerof the Nile, winner of the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (gr. II) and the San Felipe Stakes (gr. II) at Santa Anita this season in addition to his one-length victory in the Santa Anita Derby, was ridden during the drill by former jockey Joe Steiner.
Trainer Bob Baffert said Pioneerof the Nile ran out five furlongs in :58 4/5.
"He did it pretty damn easy," Baffert said. "I didn’t think he went that fast. He went really, really nice. It’s probably the best he’s ever worked. The track was in really great shape today. It had a lot of bounce to it and they were getting over it good.”
Baffert still had no commitment from Garrett Gomez on Pioneerof the Nile for the Derby. The nation’s Eclipse Award winner as outstanding jockey the last two years also is the rider of Florida Derby (gr. I) runner-up Dunkirk for Todd Pletcher.
“Well, it’s either Garrett Gomez or somebody from Los Alamitos,” Baffert joked when asked about the rider for Pioneerof the Nile in the Derby. “I don’t know yet. I’m still waiting.”
Owned by Zayat Stables, the dark bay has won five of eight career races and $1,234,200.
In other Southern California Derby news, potential starter Mr. Hot Stuff, third in the Santa Anita Derby, worked four furlongs on Pro-Ride Tuesday in :48 flat.
Trainer Eoin Harty still holds hope that the son of Tiznow , a full brother to Colonel John, can qualify for the Derby. He ranks 21st on the current list of graded stakes earners with $114,000.
“I’m training him like he’s going to the Derby right now,” Harty said. Corey Nakatani would ride.